The film made its first claim to fame at the Sundance Film Festival, and the powerful message quickly whisked it into the media’s spotlight.
Dear White People combines comedy and hard-to-swallow truth in a way that is forcing many viewers to take a second look at the country they have already deemed as “post-racial.”
The setting is the fictional Winchester University, where the Black population is miniscule and the acceptance of those students on campus seems relatively nonexistent.
It’s a story that is all too common in many universities in America, however, Dear White People director Justin Simien is one of the first filmmakers to tackle the subject head on.
“I always felt like this conversation had a very pop sensibility to it,” Simien told SF Gate. “I think Dave Chappelle set us up. I think Spike Lee set a path back in the ’80s and ’90s. I was like, why hasn’t anyone done a movie like this? I was surprised that I’m one of the first to sort of head-on take on that issue.”
While he is surprised that he is one of the first to tackle the subject in such a manner, many major publications and organizations have already taken notice.
Simien was listed as one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” and he also won a special Sundance jury prize as a “breakthrough talent.”
The film climbed its way to success rather quickly, but the script itself was years in the making.
According to SF Gate, Simien first began writing the script back in 2006.
At the time, he was a student at Chapman University in Southern California, which gave him the inspiration for the film.
The original title for the project was Two Percent, a title reflecting on the approximate percentage of African-American students at the university.
That’s when Simien realized that the script wouldn’t be as imaginative as he had hoped in some cases.
One part of the script included a scene where white students at the university donned blackface. At the time, Simien felt like the scene was too far-fetched.
The UC San Diego party boasted what students called a “ghetto” theme, and the party was called the “Compton Cookout.”
A group of white students came to the party dressed in bandanas, gold chains, large white T-shirts and, of course, blackface.
“I took the blackface party out because I thought it was too outlandish,” Simien told SF Gate. “Then when that happened at UC San Diego, I sort of rabbit-holed down the research path, (thinking) ‘Oh, I wasn’t pushing buttons. I was talking about something that actually happens.’”
The film is expected to hit theaters on Oct. 17, and its red band trailer is already in circulation.
Explicit language and sexual content has earned the film an R rating and the red band label means it can only run before other R-rated, NC-17-rated or unrated movies in theaters.
Of course, YouTube has given anybody access to the trailer.
You can view the trailer for yourself below: